I think lots of people who like travelling ,especially to the seaside for swimming, sunbathing at the Mediterrean Sea will know the city of Antalya which is one of the hot spots, especially for German , English and Russian tourists for the whole year . But unfortunately they just stay mostly in the hotel chains enjoying sealife and not leaving the resorts .
This time I will tell about Antalya and its surroundings from a different perspective which I do hope that it will give you some insight into world history .
It is summertime and we also enjoy the great opportunity to go to the beach and have a swim or go for some boating since in summertime it is really hot and humid in this region .
But since we are always also interested in culture we never miss the opportunity to have a look into a museum or an ancient site .
This time it is our goal to go to the ancient city of Perge which is very close by to Antalya – about 17km eastern to the city .
Perge was one of the most beautiful and huge cities of its time and had its highest point in the Hellenistic era and was part of the Lykian Union along with Patara , Xanthos, Letoon and many other cities nearby.
Perge was also known for its worshipping to Goddess Artemis as there was a temple dedicated to her that was placed outside the city . Located at the rivers of Catarhactes and Cestrus , today called the Aksu river ,and being close to the Kursunlu and Duden Falls , it was a city that had access to lots of waterways and this is why it was also called the ‘City of the Water’.
The falls were connected to the city via an aquaduct system.
The city was situated at the ancient road from the West to the East and from the East to the West as at the backside there were the Taurus Mountains which were difficult to pass.
It is half an hour drive from Antalya to Perge and from far we can see the historical ruins already .
The site’s history goes back to the bronze age and it was the Capital City of Pamphylia , the region around Antalya as it was called in the Antique Age and it lasted till the Middle Ages .
It was neighboured to the ancient regions called Pisidia , Cilicia and Lykia .
Due to the Corona Pandemic situation that we face this year unfortunately there are just very few people around .
At the entrance of the museum we need to do our fever check and put our masks on which is ok as it is due to the security and health regulations for all .
It is in the morning hours and we start our cultural journey for today. .
It is really very long years ( nearly 40 years back) that I have been here for the last time and I am so happy to be back and explore the site from scratch.
The entrance gate to the city is marvellous and we can see the columned street from far already .
At every step you take you can observe ruins of former enormous monuments and also lots of details .
The site is really huge – about 15.000 hectars of land which covers a huge well preserved theatre with 2 floors for about 15.000 spectators , a huge well preserved stadium , 2 main streets , a columned street ,the agora , an acropol, a necropol , diverse churches , 2 very significant huge gate -towers , several baths , a library, a nyphaeum , – all in all a huge site with lots of historical parts to see .
Close to the columned street there is the agora as well as a basilika .
Walking down there on the left hand side we can see the remains of the huge Roman Gate .
Lying on the ground and at the 2 sides we can see the wonderful decorations of the inner part of the entrance gate .
A little further there is one of the most impressive buildings here- the 2 Hellenistic gate and towers of Perge- unbelievable that they are still in place though thousands of years have passed .
You have the feeling that you are in a historical film platform .
Part of these 2 towers are 2 walls with 2 floor facades with 28 niches which were decorated with statues.
Marvellous how they stand there in the bright sun with the blue sky at the background.
We walk on the ancient roads of the city and arrive at the Septimus Severius Nymphaeum which was discovered in the 60s. The building consists of a rectangular pool and a huge facade .
The Nymphaeum was also connected to the Roman baths of the city .
Behind the Roman Gate we walk towards the columned street with the agora inside .
A part of the tops of the columns is in Ionian style , while some are in Corynthian style to give the streets a rich look .
It feels as if you are really living and walking on the streets of the ancient city.
You can see the doors of the different shops of the agora which were reconstructed during the excavation processes.
Close by is also the main street of the city .
Another very significant architectural monument is the Hadrian Arch . Such archs are dedicated to emperors or important heroes as a sign of appreciation and also a kind of promotion.
There are several baths in the city and we pass by the South bath .
We are walking under the sun being overwhelmed of what we all see – an immense historical city that is lying over here . I am blessed by all the monuments which are partly still in place and you can easily imagine how they looked like in the past .
We are strolling around , at each and every corner you can discover a new inscription , a new detail or a new perspective of the site .
Wild flowers are growing around which makes the whole experience even more colorful and natural . The region of Antalya was always very fruitful and has 600 species of flora ,of which 80 are endemic .
Oaks , black pines ,sandal woods , laurels ,plane trees, myrtles , palm trees ,cypresses ,sweetgums, red pines as well as oleander ,snapdragons ,poppies, daisies,crocus’,heath or erica , lilacs, hyacinths, cyclamens, narcissus’ and peonias are part of the local flora which made the city look very beautiful and smell good.
The colors of the stones and the beauty of the flowers are matching so well . It is as if the city is in a deep sleep but you can see the traces of its beauty and grandeur well .
We move forward to the stadium which is one of the best preserved in Turkey . The stadium has a size of 234 x 34 m and most of its seats are intact .
Finally we arrive at the supernice theatre of Perge . It is a theatre in Greek – Roman style and especially its stage part is still in good shape.
The theatre consists of 3 parts which are the Auditorium ,the Orchestra and the Stage Building.
The theatre has a diameter of 113 m and is slightly wider then a half circle .
The auditorium is divided into 2 aereas – the lower cavea which has 19 rows of seats while the upper cavea has 23 rows of seats .
The first row was always reserved for senators, lawyers and ambassadors of the city while in the 2nd row warriors and high officials were seated .
It is known that the orchestra of this theatre was used for gladiator and animal fights in the 3rd century BC due to its marble construction .
The most impressive and important part of the theatre is the stage building which has 3 levels and is highly rich decorated with sculptures and reliefs .
Probably the stage building was covered with a wooden roof that unfortunately did not reach out till today .
Undoubtedly the main figure of the decorations on the stage building is Dionysos , son of Zeus and Semele- God of the Wine and the Theatre .
On all the 10 panels of the stage building there are different scenes out of the mythological history of Dionysos ‘ life .Scenes with the water nymphs and with Cestros , the river God , mostly bathing in the water as a baby .
The pearl of the whole settlement is definitely the theatre of Perge.
Perge truly is a very special location and ancient city not only in the antique age but also later .
Since 1946 Perge is a protected Archeological Site and excavations are still going on today .
It is one of the longest running excavation periods in Turkey which marks its 74th year now.
The site retrieves many findings and especially amazing Greek and Roman sculptures of those times which are nowadays presented in the Museum of Antalya and is probably one of the richest collections of its kind .
Most of the huge sculptures were found in the theatre and at the bath area and also the agora while the very rich decorated sarcophagus’ collections certainly are coming from the necropol area. So valuable professors like Prof. Dr. Arif Müfid Mansel , Prof. Dr. Jale İnan and Prof. Dr. Haluk Abbasoğlu gave their lifetime to explore Perge and be on top of the excavation teams .
Not to forget is the fact that Perge and the roads to Perge are also mentioned in the Bible as it is the road that Apostel Paul was using during his missionary journeys from Jerusalem to the Anatolian region , especially to Anthiokhia in Pisidia .
Perge later became an important center of Christianity from the 4th century onwards when the Christian belief became the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Hours we walk through this beautiful city and its memories – it is wonderful as you just listen to the wind – though it is warm , the climate is agreeable .
We just inhale the richness at this gorgeous place .
We just see some pictures of reconstructions that help us to imagine how the different places were looking when the city was alive .
To take a pause and to have some cool drinks especially water and some good coffee we make a stop at the museum shop . It is wonderful to be here , to let the impressions sink a little bit , still enjoy the suurrounding and have some chat with the manager of the shop who is also a team member of the archeological staff since about 5 years and knows a lot about Perge that he is sharing with us . It seems that he is more than happy to get some visitors in who are really so much interested and also overwhelmed by ‘his’ site .
We spend quite some time , listening to him , cooling down , looking at the nice products that he is selling here , especially the books about Perge and the surrounding.
We are happy to buy some books as it is a gesture and a support to the museum and a motivation to the people who are working so hard at this precious place .
We leave Perge in the afternoon but it is definitely a MUST now to go the Museum of Antalya to see all the sculptures and all findings of the excavations to have the picture complete .
The museum is in the middle of the city of Antalya and looks quite modest from outside – nobody would believe what treasure is saved in this building .
We enter the museum and I cant tell how surprised I am by what I see in these museum halls .
One after the other we walk through the different sections which are from different tiemlines but for sure one of the most impressive ones is the statues ‘ hall where we ‘meet’ Zeus , Herakles Appollon, Artemis ,Athena ,Eros , Pan , Dionysos , Hermes, Cestros ,Plancia Magna ,Alexander the Great , Hadrian and so many others .
Some of the statues are maybe 3 m tall – unbelievable – all of them were excavated from Perge and brought to the Museum of Antalya .
Still every day there are findings on the site and parts of the ancient city are closed due to the ongoing archeological work .
Of course it helps when you know a little bit about the Greek or Roman mythology which reveils the myth of each sculpture .
Zeus – King of the Gods living on Mount Olympos and youngest son of Kronos and Rhea .
He is the God of the Sky , the Weather , the Thunderstorm , the Lightning . He is shown as a mature man with a dark beard and with the royal sceptre and the lightning bolt in his hand . His sacred animals are the eagle and the bull .
Hera – Wife and Sister of Zeus is the Queen of the Gods . She is the Goddess of Marriage, Childbirth , Women , Kings , Heirs and Empires. She is wearing a Diadem and her sacred animals are the peacock, the cuckoo and the heifer .
Hades – Brother of Zeus and God of the Underworld and the Dead and Wealth. He is accompanied by Ceres , his 3 -headed dog who is the guard of the Underworld . The symbols of Hades are the drinking horn , the key and the sceptre .
Poseidon – Son of Kronos and Rhea and brother of Zeus and Hades is the God of the Sea , the Rivers, the Floods , the Earthquakes. His sacred animals are the horse and the dolphin. He is often depicted with Medusa whom he is transforming into a Gorgon.
His kids are Pegasus and Chrysaor .
Athena – Zeus’ daughter , born out of his head is the Goddess of Wisdom , Peace , Intelligence, Skill , Battle strategy . Her symbols are the helmet , the spear and the shield. She is often accompanied by an owl and the olive tree is also a symbol of her .She is often the patron of the heroes .
Today Athena is the symbol of Athens , the capital of Greece .
Appollon – Son of Zeus and Leto is the God of Music , Art, Knowledge , masculine beauty , poetry ,art and prophecy – he is the twin brother of Artemis .
Artemis– Twin sister of Appollon is the Virgin Goddess of the Hunt , Wilderness , Animals and Young Girls . Her symbols are the arrow and the hunting bow .
Aphrodite – Goddess of Beauty , Love and Desire – her symbol is the scallop shell and roses
Ares – Son of Zeus and Hera is the God of War , Blood and Violence
Dionysos – Son of Zeus is the God of Wine , Entertainment , Chaos , Drunkenness and the Theatre .His symbols are the grapes , a drinking cup and his sacred animals are the dolphins , the serpents ,the donkeys and tigers .
Hermes – Son of Zeus and Maia is the God of Travelling , Communication ,Boundaries, Trade and Language . He is the ambassador of the gods and has the mission to bring the dead souls safely into their afterlife . His symbols are his winged sandals , his traveller hat and his wand . His sacred animal is the turtoise .
Demeter – Sister of Zeus and daughter of Krono and Rhea is the Goddess of Harvest , Grain , Agriculture and Growth .The winged serpent , wheat and lotus are her symbols . Her mythological backgrounds tells about her wish to reunite with her daughter Persephone who is living underearth and is symbolizing spring in nature
just to name a few of them .
While you walk through the aisles you see all of them – no longer being a myth but being a huge real sculpture in front of you and telling you their specific stories .
It is so nice to see students , propably from the Art Faculties who are sitting in the museum for hours to draw the beautiful bodies of the statues..
At one of the corner we observe a huge sculpture – Alexander the Great .He is one of the historical persons invading Perge on his way from Phaselis to the East to Mesopotamia , Persia and later to India .
In a later part of the museum there is a section where lots of very detailed decorated sarcophagus are presented .
All these sarcophagus’ are from the Necropol site of Perge, richly decorated with ornaments and sceneries from the mythology .
From some you understand that it is the sarcophagus of a couple as the couples ‘ appearance is on top of the sarcophag .
One sarcophagus seems to be different then the others as it is presented separately in a special corner with a red velvet curtain as a background and is decorated in a very lovely way with pink – redish fresh rose leafs – it is the Herakles Sarcophagus.
The 2.200 year old sarcophagus that is 235 cm long ,112 cm wide and weighs 3 tons was smuggled out of the country in the 1960s.
It was later seen at the customs clearance in Switzerland , in Geneva in 2010 .
After 7 years of negotiations it was in 2017 when the Turkish government could fortunately succeed to get the Herakles Sarcophagus back to Turkey and transfer it to the Museum of Antalya where it was displayed since then . After 57 years being apart from the country the sculpture arrived back at its home.
Another sculpture which has a special place in the museum and is displayed in a black velvet corner is the ‘Weary Herakles’ sculpture .
Actually this statue consists of 2 pieces as it is broken in the middle.
Unfortunately the 2 parts of the body were apart and in 2 different countries for decades.
The lower part was found in Perge during the excavations in 1980 by Prof Dr Jale Inan . The upper half was illegally smuggled out of the country and was sold .
It was seen in the early 1980s in the US, displayed at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts . According to the Turkish law Turkish antiques properties are state property since the Ottoman rules in 1906. The Turkish authorities asked for the return of the upper part as to re-unite the 2 pieces of the original statue but first Boston refused. The Turkish Government was in negotiations with Boston for 2 decades until Boston showed a ‘good will action’ and confirmed to return the upper part to Turkey in 2011.
Though all pieces in the museum are very precious and beautiful , for sure this Herakles statue is by far undoubtedly the most iconic statue in the whole gallery .
Part of this statue are a lions skin ( The Lion of Nemea ), a bulls head ( The Bull of Crete ) and apples in the hand of Herakles ( Apples of Hesperides ) which are all sacred symbols of him .
We move ahead as there are so many things to see .
We see parts of the facade of the Nymphaeum .
Each piece nicer then the other .
When leaving the museum we enter the beautiful garden ,where a peacock is walking around the lion sculptures – is it maybe the peacock of Hera ?
Also outside there are little parts of the Nymphaneum , the fountains ,which were decorated with the nymphs , often close to the bath aerea .
How magnificent they look – how beautiful they should have been at their original places.
While we are slowly leaving the place I have Perge , the huge ancient city , and these numerous marvellous sculptures in mind .
How decorative they would have appeared in the original city at their real locations . How beautiful the city should have been .
Even the thousands of the ruins tell us about the grandiosity of the city .
We feel really blessed to have had the chance to visit Perge and the Museum that day.
I can just tell that the whole Anatolian terrain is full of those gorgeous places which are so charming and I can just advise whenever you are in the part of this world eg in Antalya – take your time and visit those , visit the museum and you will be overwhelmed and have a great insight into world history which is maybe ancient but just next to us – just open your eyes ….